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Education equity consultant Jamilah Pitts on strong school communities

Education Consultant Jamilah Pitts reflects on building strong, equity-focused school communities. At the IB Virtual ConferenceJamilah will offer insight into her practices and techniques for educators from all over the world to implement in their classrooms. Learn more about her work in the Q&A below. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and where you are now?

I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio but I had the opportunity to teach and attend school in many different places. I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, where I completed my undergraduate degree from Spelman College. I also lived in Boston, where I taught for two years at an IB school and earned a degree from Boston College. More recently before relocating back to Columbus, I lived in New York City for four years. I worked as a teacher before moving into school leadership as a dean and have also served as an assistant principal. In my career, I have channelled my energy into developing anti-racist principles and practices at my schools.

Now, I run my own consulting firm that partners with schools, organizations and institutions that directly or indirectly impact young people. Our focus is on racial equity, anti-racist practices and ensuring that educators and leaders have the tools and the knowledge they need to approach systems and structures to build and create equitable spaces for young people. Simultaneously, I am a wellness coach and a yoga teacher. The correlation between these two is mending the impact injustices, disparities and inequities can have in the body and mind.

Why is your work important to students and educators in a classroom setting?

From an educator’s perspective, first, we should consider the role that we play in schools, whether we are working directly or indirectly with young people. The work can often be taxing mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually.

Thus, it is crucial that we have the tools, practices and lifestyle we need, to enable us to care for ourselves in ways that are radical and true to who we are at our core. In the end, when we talk about justice and anti-racist practices we’re ultimately talking about humanity.

In that sense, the yoga practice or spiritual practices allow us to connect to our inner selves or to our higher selves and to understand who we are as human beings. It is difficult to understand who you are at your core as a human being, without understanding the role that you play in the larger aspect of humanity.

Radically caring for ourselves allows us to radically care for humanity, which in turn allows us to show up as advocates for truth and for justice.

When did you realize that education was going to be your life’s work?  

I knew that education was going to be my life’s work early on, particularly when I was in third grade. As a student, I loved school and that community and environment acted as an escape for me. It was a place where I felt alive, present and excited.

My love for school, reading and learning resulted in the desire to want to teach and to develop an admiration for educators. As I got older, justice became more solidified in my educational philosophy, as I came to understand the ways in which education is either used as a tool to oppress or as a tool to liberate.

Which one of the IB learner profile traits would you see as like most valuable to your work?

Undoubtfully open-minded. Especially, when it comes to the work of equity, anti-racism, social justice and human rights work, which are crucial terms globally. Open-mindedness is a vital characteristic to have. The ability to hear people and to open and expand our minds to taking on new ideas and thinking out of the box is critical. New ways of thinking are essential to moving forward as a society and as a global community.

Why are you excited to present at the IB Virtual Conference?

I am incredibly excited to be a part of the IB Virtual Conference, which is a convening of educators from all around the globe. I firmly believe in the profession of teaching and the ability that teachers have to change the world. Hence, when I think about the gathering of the brightest, most critical and sharpest minds around the world, particularly given the challenging times that we are living in, I am really excited for what that means for our future and what we will all take from this space and give back to your communities. I am elated for the ways in which that will continue to shift this world.

Jamilah sees education as her life’s work and truly believes that it should be an avenue through which empathy, healing and justice are promoted. Her work focuses on the healing and holistic development of youth,  particularly for students of colour, through adult and educator development. Today, Jamilah runs a consulting firm, where she provides anti-racist strategic planning, educator professional development, and wellness and yoga practices.

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